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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 7 - A MAD TEA-PARTY
In front of the house is a tree, under which is set a table for a tea party. March Hare and the Mad Hatter are having tea. Between them is seated the Dormouse who is fast asleep and the other two are using the dormouse as a cushion for resting their elbows on it and they talk over its head.
On seeing Alice, both of them (March Hare and Mad Hatter) exclaim that there is no place for her. However, Alice is adamant and takes a chair saying that there is a lot of place at the table. After a round of not very pleasant talks Alice and the others compel the dormouse to tell them a story.
The chapter is replete with events that display the beauty that lies in the ‘use of language’. Linguistic acrobatics begin with the Hatter pointing out that it is not possible to say that, the statements, "I see what I eat" and "I eat what I see" could mean the same. Therefore, by the same logic one cannot say that the statements "I say what I mean" and "I mean what I say" is true.
Alice is further puzzled when she notices that the Dormouse’s watch can say the day of the month but does not say the time. This brings them to a discussion on the concept of time. While Alice perceives time as being a concept (abstract), Hatter speaks of him as if Time were a living being. Alice realizes that time has come to stop at the Hatter’s house and therefore it is always six o’clock (tea time). It is time now for the Dormouse to tell his story.
The dormouse wakes up to tell then the story of three little sisters who lived in a treacle well and were learning to draw all that started with a "M". He is hardly able to go on with the story beyond a certain point since Alice consistently stops him with questions of various sorts. This irritates the dormouse who refuses to go on with the story. She is asked by the others to keep quiet and unable to take this rude behavior she leaves the place.
The last thing that she happens to see, is the sight of March Hare and the Mad Hatter trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot. Just as she tells herself that she would never set foot at the house again, she spots a door in one of the tree trunks.
She goes through the door and finds herself in the long hall that she was hurled into when she at first followed the White Rabbit through the rabbit hole. She picks up the golden key and then nibbling at the mushroom she manages to reach the size that would take her through the door leading to the garden.
Once she is on the other side of the door, she finds herself among bright flower-beds and cool fountains.
The Mad tea-party becomes a ground where Alice displays her knowledge and asserts that she is better than the others present.
Her persistent questions when the dormouse is relating the story, indicates her curiosity, and the manner in which she treats the others reveals her sense of superiority. Linguistic bantering also seems to be the `done thing` in Wonderland.
This kind of violence underlies the behavior of almost all the characters in this chapter. Also, the fact that the time is always 6 o’clock indicates that the mad tea party is not bound by the normal rigors of time. Thus, the creatures here violate all genteel notions of polite conversation that Alice has been brought up on.
No wonder Alice leaves, upset that she cannot correct their `undignified` manners.